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FeaturesNewsPre-election Political Opinion Poll: People Upbeat Under MS-RW Rule

Pre-election Political Opinion Poll: People Upbeat Under MS-RW Rule

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Country now more free .
Media more free .
Rule of Law better .
Sinhalese least upbeat.
Minorities satisfied .
Most know little of 19th Amendment.

As the country moves towards parliamentary elections in August, the latest political opinion poll shows a broadly upbeat public mood although the economy remains the irritant. In a survey taken earlier this month across the island from Jaffna to Hambantota and Colombo to Batticaloa, over 90 per cent of those surveyed from among all ethnic communities felt that ethnic harmony measures are important and also that the security of ethnic communities has improved when compared with last year.

The survey titled “Political Weather Analysis : Survey on Current Political Trends” was conducted by the Social Science Association (SSA) with 1,500 households across 22 electoral districts Using rigorous sampling and field methodology, the survey captured the opinions of individuals from all major ethnic communities – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Up-Country Tamil – and, from all major religious groups in the country, the Report, undertaken in early June, said.

Almost half of the participants, when thinking of the country’s current political environment, felt that they were more free compared with last year. Another 37% believe that there is no difference in this regard.

Inter-ethnic war mongers, mainly small groups, may have led noisy public protests in recent years but this agitation does not seem to have deterred most people of all ethnic groups from feeling that the current political dispensation has helped communal harmony and improved social security.

The Report says: When asked to assess their family’s economic situation compared to one year ago, 37.5% of the respondents say that it has improved, while 38% claim that it has remained unchanged.

The positive evaluation of the family’s economic condition is markedly higher among the minority ethnic communities.

Almost half of the participants, when thinking of the country’s current political environment, feel that they are more free compared to last year. Another 37% believe that there is no difference in this regard.

However, only 9% of the participants state that they feel less free in the current political environment, compared to one year ago. While a majority of Sinhalese feel that there is no change in the status quo, an overwhelming number of minority ethnic communities (Tamil 82%, Muslim 68%, Up Country Tamil 72%) state that the political environment today allows them more freedom, compared to a year ago.

Mixed reactions

In general, a majority express their satisfaction with the performance of the present Government, under President Mithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

However, one third of the respondents state that they are dissatisfied. While overwhelming numbers of the minority ethnic communities express their satisfaction (Tamil 83%, Muslim 87%, Up-Country Tamil 84%), with the performance of the present Government with regard to development, the Sinhala community expresses mixed reactions, with 42% claiming to be satisfied, and 46% claiming they are dissatisfied.

Interestingly, the survey indicates that 71% of the respondents are unaware of arguably the most significant achievement of the Maithripala Sirisena government, which was to pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. This lack of awareness is higher among the Sinhala community (79%) compared to minority communities, while more Tamils seem to have developed an awareness (28%).

Those who claim to be aware of the 19th Amendment seem to have noticed the limits imposed on the president, such as the limit to the number of terms an individual can hold the office of President, the limit to the duration of the term of the office of the President and the reduction of presidential immunity. In addition, 12.5% who are aware of the 19th Amendment mention the establishment of independent Commissions as a feature of it.

Seventy five percent of those who were aware of the passage of the 19th Amendment believe that it will have a positive impact on the future of the country.

An overwhelming majority of all ethnic groups who are aware of the passage of the 19th Amendment share this positive view. However, 9.1% of the respondents believe it will have a negative impact on the future of the country. This opinion is mainly entertained by the Sinhala community.

When asked to comment on the level of media freedom in the country compared to one year ago, 60% of the respondents claimed that the situation has improved, and that there is greater media freedom today. While 50% of Sinhalese respondents hold this positive view, the percentage of minorities who are of this view is significantly higher (Tamil 79%, Muslim 69%, UpCountry Tamil 80%).

Positive turn

According to the survey findings, 43% of the respondents claim that there has been a certain decline in the cost of living when compared to a year ago, while another 25% claim that the cost of living in the country has remained unchanged. This figure is markedly higher among the minority communities with 66% of Tamils, 57% of Muslims and 52% of Up Country Tamils reporting a favourable change over the last year. However, only 35% of the Sinhala respondents hold a similar view.

The survey indicates that 20% of all respondents believe that there has been a movement in a positive direction in terms of infrastructure development, with a further 28% claiming that the status quo has remained unchanged in this regard.

Thirty-one percent report that they cannot be satisfied with the level of infrastructure development happening currently, as against a year ago. It appears that a sizable number of the minority ethnic communities (53% of Tamils, 35% of Muslims and 27% Up Country Tamils) believe that there is greater infrastructure development today rather than a year ago, while only 10% of Sinhalese share this view. Almost 50% of the respondents report that the Rule of Law in the country has taken a positive turn compared to the previous year, while another 25% claim that there has been no change in the situation.

While 41% Sinhalese note this improvement in the Rule of Law, more than 50% of all minority communities (Tamil 71%, Muslim 58%, Up Country Tamil 56%) share the same view.

Forty percent of the respondents claim that Sri Lanka’s Foreign Relations have improved compared to one year ago. However, 33% claim that they are unaware of the country’s foreign relations. Interestingly, only 33% of Sinhalese subscribe to this view, while 55% of Tamils, 44% of Muslims and 53% of Up Country Tamils make this positive claim.

Regardless of ethnicity, 49% of respondents are of the belief that the interests of their particular ethnicity is, better served now compared to one year ago. Another 27% claim that the situation remains unchanged in this regard. However, only 33% of Sinhalese feel that the interests of their community are more ensured now compared to a year ago, whereas a very significant component of the minority participants (Tamils 79%, Muslims 79%, Up Country Tamils 61%) opine that their interests are more ensured now compared to the previous year. Mention must also be made of the fact that 35% of Sinhalese feel that the situation is unchanged.

A similar view may be observed in relation to the respondents’ stance regarding the extent to which the interests of their particular religious communities have been ensured today compared to a year ago, with 51% responding in the affirmative. 29% state that things are unchanged , while only 37% of Buddhists state that the interests of their religious community are better ensured today.

A much higher proportion of respondents among the minority religious communities (68% of Hindus, 80% of Muslims, 57% of Catholics and 65% of Christians) feel the same way.

A reasonable portion of the population (41%) states that the well-being of the army is better ensured today compared to one year ago, while 22% feel that nothing has changed. There is no significant difference in this view across ethnic communities, as the data indicates that 41% of Sinhalese, 35% of Tamils, 43% of Muslims and 39% of Up Country Tamils share the view.

When asked whether relationships between ethnic communities will improve under Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency, 68% were hopeful it would, while 15% claim that things will remain the same in future. This optimism is not shared in equal measure among the Sinhala community (42%) as compared to minority communities (Tamil 74%, Muslim 84%, Up Country Tamil 87%).

As per the survey findings, 84% of the participants agree that the government should intervene more to ensure the rights of the minority.

While 79% (which is the lowest percentage) of the Sinhalese respondents are of this view, 90% of the Tamil community, 89% of the Muslim community and 88% of the Up Country Tamil community feel the same way.

Similarly, 90% of the respondents agree that the government needs to do more to ensure livelihood security of war affected individuals in the North and East of the country. There is very little difference to be observed among ethnic communities on this issue with 89% of Sinhala, 90% Tamils and 89% Muslims and 97% Up Country Tamil expressing their agreement.

When asked whether they agree with the statement “After the conclusion of the war, the interests of the Sinhala community has been ignored,” a very small number of participants (16%) agreed, while 68% of the respondents disagreed.

Interestingly, it is the Sinhala community who disagrees most (71%) about the interests of the Sinhala community being undermined after the war.

Courtesy -Sunday Observer

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